The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Motoi Miura
Motoi Miura
Born 1973. Graduated Toho Gakuen Jr. College, department of theater, Toho Gakuen Major Course. Joined Seinendan theater company in 1996, became member of the directing department. Studied and worked in theater in Paris for two years on an Agency for Cultural Affairs research grant from 1999. Returned to Japan in 2001 and acted as representative of the Seinendan Link company Chiten from 2003 to 2005. Became independent of Seinendan in April of 2005 and moved Chiten’s base of operations to Kyoto. That year he won the Outstanding Performance Award of the Toga Director Contest for his production of The Seagull (by A. Chekov). From 2007 he began a project to mount productions of the four great masterpieces of Chekov and won the Agency for Cultural Affairs New Director Award for the third production of this series, The Cherry Orchard. In 2010 he published his first book Omoshirokereba OK ka? (Is just being interesting OK?) (Goryu Shoin publishing). Named for Special Accomplishment in Culture for the City of Kyoto, 2008.
Atashi-chan, Ikusaki Itte (Little Me, Say Where You’re Going) – from the full text of Shogo Ohta

(Jan. 2010 at Kichijoji Theatre)
Atashi-chan, Ikusaki Itte
Atashi-chan, Ikusaki Itte
Photo: Tsukasa Aoki
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Giving expression to dissected texts  The new possibilities of compositional theater pioneered by Motoi Miura  
Giving expression to dissected texts  The new possibilities of compositional theater pioneered by Motoi Miura  
Motoi Miura (b. 1973) is a theater director who went independent from Oriza Hirata’s directing department of the Seinendan theater company along with a number of leading directors to emerge in the first decade of the 21st century, such as Yukio Shiba (Mamagoto), Shu Matsui (Sample) and Junnosuke Tada (Tokyo Deathlock). He pursues a unique style as a director that breaks the playwright-director norm in Japan’s small-theater world. Taking Chekhov plays like The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard and works by Shogo Ohta and others, he dissects the text and words in a process that can be likened to internal questioning. Then he works together with the actors, stage artists, lighting artists and others who will give expression to his dissected text and brings to the stage a reconstructed embodiment of the artistic world created by the original playwright. In 2005 he moved his base to Kyoto as leader of the theater company Chiten. In this interview Miura speaks about his background and his philosophy of theater.
(Interviewer: Akihiko Senda)

In Japan’s small-theater scene, it is often the case that the same artist writes and directs the plays, and in some also acts in their plays, but as a director in your Gekidan Chiten company, you have pursued a unique style of theater. You write in detail about that methodology and approach in your recently published book Omoshirokereba OK? (Is just being interesting OK?) (Goryu Shoin publishing). What I found especially interesting was, for example, when you directed an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, you dissected the line that says, “kusakari ha sukkari sunda to iu no ni mainichi ame bakari” (Our hay is all cut and rotting in these daily rains), into “kusakari (hay cutting) …sukkari (all, completely) …sunda (finished) …mainichi (daily) …ame (rain). Then you added your own critical measure and USED DEVICES SUCH AS having the actor deliver the line as, “KUSAKARI ha SUKKARI SUNDA to iu no ni MAINICHI AME BAKKARISEKKAKU” to very unique experimental effect. You were born in 1973 and you attended Toho Gakuen School of Music for college ad studied in the Drama Department. From that time did you already intend to become a theater director?
I went to Toho Gakuen with the intention of becoming an actor. Toho is a two-year Jr. College and in those first two years I trained as an actor. After that I did another two years in the Drama Major Course, so I studied a total of four years there. In the Drama Major Course there were independent stage productions and that is where I did my first directing. At that time, I got the vague feeling that I was better suited to directing than acting. I was still just a student, though, so there wasn’t much faith behind that feeling (laughs).

Who were the professors in the Drama Major Course?
The director Mitsumasa Shinozaki was there. What I learned most from at that time was Shinozaki-san’s approach to theater and his methodology. Also I participated as an actor in plays directed by Yukio Ninagawa and Koichi Kimura.

Shinozaki-san is known for his “Shinozaki System” of actor training method. Were you influenced by that?
I was. The Stanislavsky system is very complicated when you read it, but Shinozaki-san presents a very easy-to-understand resume of actor training that was quite informative for me at the time. Particularly what he says about “ma” (dramatic pause, interval, timing), which he breaks down into three types of pause in drama, the mental/philosophical pause, biological/natural pause and physical-cause pause. That analysis was extremely fresh and thought provoking for me. When the “….” Indicating a pause appears in a play script, most actors tend to interpret it a mental/philosophical pause, which tends to lead to over-dramatization. He says not to get caught in that trap. Turning a page in a book is a biological/natural pause and there is nothing inherently dramatic about it, but avant-garde types may modify the action as a certain type of deliberate action (style of movement). The biological/natural pause is one that is caused by a happening, such as the silence after a cup is dropped. That is the way the system is used. It really opened my eyes.

What plays did you do in college?
In the first year of our major course we did Kunio Kishida’s Dialog Printanier, which is a short dialog piece, and Oriza Hirata’s short work Omoidasenai Yume no Ikutsuka (Some dreams I can’t remember) and Aho Ressha (Travel on Train) as an omnibus production. The plays were staged in a train set. I didn’t know Hirata-san at the time, but one of the actors from the Seinendan company happened to have come as an instructor and we were using those plays as study material. When I said that I wanted to direct the works, Hirata-san came to see our production and said encouragingly that it was interesting (laughs), so I decided going into directing wouldn’t be bad.

That is when your acquaintance with Hirata-san began?
Yes. That experience made me want to go and see actual productions of his plays, and the first one I saw was Tokyo Notes. I saw it from a second balcony seat of the Agora Theater and I remember what a strong tension there was to the atmosphere it created. I love his play S Kogen Kara (From S Plateau) and since there happened to be a performance in Akita Pref. where my hometown is, I volunteered to help out as a stagehand because I wanted to watch the rehearsals. I found those rehearsals fascinating. One of the notation you often see in the scripts of Hirata plays is “Three seconds later,” and I was surprised to see that they actually timed those pauses quite seriously. From up in the stage exit Hirata-san would say, “How many seconds was that?” and then say, “OK, add another two seconds.” (Laughs) I thought, “These people are too much!” but as I watched I began to understand the meaning of that directing method. I found it to be very much connected to the analysis of “dramatic pause” that Shinozaki-san speaks of. I then began to identify with it strongly.

After graduation did you immediately enter the directing department of the theater company Seinendan?
In fact, it was SCOT’s Tadashi Suzuki who influenced me most. You could even say that it was seeing his King Lear as a student that made me want to do theater. It got me going to the summer Toga Festival every year. So, when I graduated I was having difficulty choosing between going to the Mito Arts Center ACM Theater where Suzuki-san was artistic director at the time or going to audition for the Seinendan company. But, since Suzuki-san is as old as my father, I eventually decided to go to Seinendan where people were closer to my age.
 In Seinendan you have a young member’s performance in your first year with the company and your performance there is judged to decide if you will be allowed to stay with the company. I was told after that performance that I couldn’t stay as an actor. But I got a letter from Hirata-san after that saying clearly that if I wanted to join the directing department I should contact him. So I started my activities as a first-year member of the directing department. That involved doing a lot of things, from working in the theater’s business department as an Agora Theater employee to cleaning the toilets, and in my free time I did rehearsals for the independent performances.

As a director, did you never think of writing your own plays?
Since I had studied at Toho Gakuen, I had the idea that doing both writing and directing was a phenomenon unique to Japan’s small-theater world and that in the orthodox approach to theater the director, playwright and actor are separate disciplines. There were some people there who had come from high school drama clubs and liked to write their own scripts, but I found them incredibly boring and wondered why anyone would want to make a play out of such dairy-like material, and believed firmly that it could never become theater. So, I never thought of writing my own plays.
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